Technology has been giving healthcare providers new ways to care for and engage their patients in a variety of ways for many years now. However, as fast broadband, easy access to computers at home, cloud computing and smartphone use in particular have become more widely available, the rate and pace at which this technology will impact healthcare is now tremendous. There is potential that technology access will deliver even more benefits for people with chronic conditions.
Chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, asthma, and diabetes, are responsible for seven out of ten deaths every year in the U.S., and treatment of these illnesses is estimated to account for over 80% of current U.S. health care costs. From an industry standpoint, these problems are best managed by prevention. To do this, technology can and should have a huge role when it comes to educating people on how to adopt more healthy habits and behavior. In other words, we need to use modern technology to increase individual engagement with healthcare and wellness data.
When health care providers effectively engage people to participate in their care, individuals begin to take more responsibility for their own health and adopt healthier habits. Effective engagement of patients with chronic illnesses can lead to reductions in hospital, clinic and pharmacy visits, decreased morbidity and mortality, and improvements in treatment adherence and quality of life.
Telehealth, remote biometric monitoring, and technology-assisted health education are all powerful tools in the fight to improve chronic care outcomes because they provide in-the-moment support to patients learning to manage diet, exercise habits, and medication routines. This might involve real-time motivational messages, behavioral coaching, and educational content right to the mobile devices of patients with Type II diabetes, for example. Even simple text message programs can make a huge difference. For example, one new app sends care information and reminders to parents of children with asthma, helping reduce emergency room visits.
In terms of who can promote this kind of modern technology, state and local government organizations can also deploy new technology to catalyze healthier lifestyle and disease prevention programs. For example, websites with multi-media functionality and mobile apps attached to them can list free or low-cost places to get fit, offer a variety of educational information for each group with a particular chronic condition, and even include a social media component enabling individuals to share tips and ideas with one another.
Naturally, chronic illnesses have a significant impact on businesses, largely because it often leads to increased absenteeism and retention problems. And because businesses are uniquely positioned to promote healthy lifestyles for workers and their families, in conjunction with with health insurance, they can make available wellness programs and services. Preventative screenings, healthy eating programs and on-site gyms etc., all of which can be tailored to help lower both health risks and costs and then use a variety of technology based solutions to help them.
For example, a virtual wellness portal that imports data from on-site health screenings and provides employees with an action plan, educational information, and email and text reminders can help participants to set goals and stay on track. In addition, some companies are adopting wearable technology as part of their wellness programs to incentivize employees to get and stay fit.
In summary, modern technology of many kinds, especially when it makes use of smartphones and tablets, can and should play a big role in better engaging individuals to take their own health as seriously as possible and to encourage everyone to prevent the rise of chronic conditions, especially for those who have a higher risk for their development.
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